Another great page-turner from the pen of Mark Gimenez. Whilst he’s written several books featuring Dallas-based lawyer Scott Fenney, this book is about the Brice family and the horrific kidnap of their daughter Grace. Being a keen footballer, Grace was having a great game watched by her father, John. John is a geek who, despite his academic brilliance, feels the need to prove himself – partly to those who bullied him in the past, and particularly to his wife who he fears does not truly love him. For example, even other football dad’s do not believe he is the father of such an athletic daughter. His aim is to float his successful software company for $1 billion, believing that unquestionable wealth will answer any critic. But being distracted by the final details of the deal, he misses the abduction of his daughter after the football match is over.
This book also features John’s hotshot lawyer wife, Elizabeth, and his father Ben, a troubled army veteran. Although estranged, Ben and John join forces to track Grace and in turn, find a deeper appreciation for each other.
I was really surprised that I haven’t reviewed one of Mezrich’s books on this website before. I certainly enjoyed “Bring Down the House” some years ago, but before I began to make notes on books that I’d read (primarily to avoid buying duplicate books!). Perhaps the bigger surprise, though, is the angle that this book takes after the success of Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”, which was released in film form as The Social Network. That story leaves the reader in no doubt that the Winklevoss twins were merely taking advantage of their luck in meeting and working with the brilliant Mark Zuckerberg, launching a legal fight against Facebook to take a chunk of the value that Zuckerberg himself had created.
Bitcoin Billionaires continues the story, showing that, in fact, the Winklevoss family combine a strong work ethic with business acumen. If they were really as shallow as the previous story made us believe, they would not have worked so hard in spotting their next investment opportunity in the shape of Bitcoin investments and helping to legitimise Bitcoin in the eyes of the business world. As well as describing the enviable lifestyle of the rich and famous, flitting from party to party, Mezrich tells this tale of redemption and paints a more balanced picture of Zuckerberg’s real character.
I’ve long been a fan of Michael Connelly – this Micky Haller story (he of Lincoln Lawyer fame) is one of the good ones. We follow the progress of Haller as he attempts to define La Cosse, a techie with a talent for promoting prostitutes online and managing their business. He is charged with the murder of one of his clients – and before long, Haller realises that the victim was one of his own former clients, Gloria Dayton. Despite the conflict of interest, Haller is convinced that La Cosse is innocent and begins his own investigation into the shady past of Dayton and her associates.
Haller faces a tough challenge in this book. He must dig deep into the past to find out the truth of the case where he previously defended Dayton – potentially uncovering dubious practice by the police and also coming into conflict with a violent criminal whom Dayton’s testimony helped to convict. All this while his own daughter gives him the cold shoulder over the nature of his role in defending the (sometimes) indefensible.
This is the second of three books featuring Deaver’s new character, Colter Shaw. I wasn’t aware that it was a sequel until searching for other books with the same character, so it’s definitely readable out of order. Having said that, there were references to Shaw’s father and his untimely death – that seems to be part of the longer narrative that spans the series.
Colter Shaw is the thinking man’s bounty hunter – he doesn’t just round up (and sometimes kill) fugitives, he approaches the contracts with humanity. In fact, his business manager urges him to be more ruthless, while Shaw is seen to be more focussed on doing the right thing than chasing the money. In this outing, doing the right thing involves investigating the mysterious suicide by one of his bounty targets. The man jumps from a clifftop without fear and with no little serenity. Shaw believes there’s something odd going on within the organisation where the man has spent the preceding months, immersed in new-age rituals and beliefs. So he signs up for a season of self-improvement himself, hoping to uncover the truth.
Shaw is a capable operator, trained by his father in a host of rules by which to hunt and evade capture. He’s also a decent fighter – but it’s his mentality that intriguing. Who, other than Jack Reacher, would put himself into harm’s way just because something didn’t seem right?
I read this book some time ago, but have delayed writing a review because it’s such a tremendous book I wasn’t sure how to sum it up. This book continues after the first in the series, The Three Body Problem – the Earth is due to be invaded in 400 years by an alien force with vastly superior technology. Given this knowledge, how could the human race best prepare for a battle for survival?
To make things more difficult, the aliens have deployed tiny sentinels to Earth that can observe everything – so like the best crypographic security, and strategies chosen by Earth must succeed even if the opposition knows the strategy in advance. The response of the United Nations is to pick four individuals and give them unlimited powers to devise a strategy and carry it out. There is little oversight – and by keeping the overall plan to themselves, the individuals can achieve some level of subterfuge and misdirection. The main thread of the story follows Luo Ji, who at first seems to use his powers purely for personal gain, achieving a superb lifestyle and making little visible progress on any plan.
The author conveniently gives humans the ability to hibernate for long periods, so that some characters are able to appear at key points during the 400 year ‘crisis’. We experience the devastating first encounter of the human defences against the alien technology and the bravery of some leaders of the space fleets as they question their orders.
This is a lovely route from Keston to Holwood Farm and then on to the village of Downe. Having found the end of the footpath on a previous walk, we set off in the middle of last week’s snowfall, quite a break from the mundanities of lockdown and home-schooling.
The walk skirts around the grounds of Holwood House and eventually crosses its grand driveway near the main gates. Sadly, there’s no direct view of the main house from the footpath, although another range of houses is visible and is also quite impressive. Also at the edge of Holwood Estate are the remains of an oak tree attributed to William Wilberforce, the scene of a discussion he held in 1788 with Mr Pitt (the Prime Minister), the conclusion of which was to set about the abolishment of the slave trade in the United Kingdom.
On arrival at Downe, we were delighted to find that The Queen’s Head pub has converted one of its private dining rooms into a shop selling teas/coffees as well as general produce. They opened it in November due to the pub itself closing under lockdown rules and it’s proving very popular with hikers and cyclists.
This is the first Jack Reacher thriller since Lee Child announced that he would be passing the baton to his brother, Andrew, to continue the series. I’ve read all of the previous books, so was intrigued to see how the style of writing might change. For example, Lee Child has previously mentioned in interviews that, now Reacher is getting older, the pace of the books may have to slow down.
If anything, I think this book sees the pace increase. There is certainly more violence and Reacher is only too happy to hand out his own view of justice. It starts at a bar, where Reacher enjoys the music played by a band, and is appalled to find out that the management refused to pay them (and damaged one of their guitars). He takes matters into his own hands and sees that the band is compensated. This episode is by no means central to the story, it just sets the scene of Reacher taking the side of the underdog. That continues when he arrives in a town and sees Rusty Rutherford, an IT guy, under attack on the street. He steps in – and acts as his bodyguard for the rest of the story.
I always enjoy the Reacher books where he teams up with either old army buddies or some law enforcement agency. Here, the natural storyline might have been to work with Officer Rule, a woman officer in the local police who provides some background information on Rusty and seems amenable to Reacher’s charms. However, she remains a peripheral character – instead, Reacher works with Rusty and his colleague Sarah, formerly of the FBI. Later, we meant Agent Fisher – working for the FBI to infiltrate a gang of Russians working in the area. She and Reacher collaborate and manage to save each others necks at various times.
The plot starts to disappoint when Rusty and Sarah are desperate to find some computing servers that hold evidence that their software worked against hackers. We witness Jack Reacher trawling around town, trying to find a rack of black servers. They’ve been passed from one party to another and Reacher threatens or abuses everyone involved until they get the servers back. It’s just not the sort of scene Jack Reacher would normally care about – I appreciate that he’d like to help Rusty clear his name, but I’d rather he’d spent the book directly investigating the case of the missing journalist who was tortured early in the book.
Reacher books typically end with a final battle where he faces the toughest villain. It’s flagged several times in the book that a Russian gangster is arriving from Moscow to sort out his team, so it’s clear that Reacher will have to take him on. Despite having 3 strong characters to choose from, the authors leave Reacher to handle the battle solo. Fisher is out of action, Sands just gives him a lift by car and picks him up later (yes, really) and Officer Rule was an on-looker at the end (although she does offer to cook him a meal). Jack Reacher stories have had strong women characters at the centre of the action in the past (Casey Nice in Personal, Michelle Chang in Make Me, Sergeant Frances Neagley with several appearances), so I was surprised that the women in this story had supporting roles at best.
This is the debut SF novel for Simon Pick and is set against a grim backdrop of politics in America. Given recent events, readers might think that the book is less far-fetched than the author intended when he started writing it 4 years ago.
The premise of the book is that the American people have been disenfranchised by politics, with the winner of the presidential race essentially being chosen at random according to whichever big businesses have funded their campaigns the most. These random elections are seen as anti-democratic – so an alternative is put in place, allowing (even encouraging) the people to end a presidency by force and trigger a fresh election. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence systems get on with the real business of government, without all the emotional turmoil that humans brings.
There are aspects of Groundhog Day in the story, in that the turnover of presidents is frequent (many last only a few days) and we repeatedly experience the fake election, investiture and then untimely death of each presidential candidate. By the end of the book, this unnervingly starts to become a new normal – the candidates themselves well know that their presidential term signals the end of their life and many have elaborate plans of how to bow out.
One of the repeated scenes is the assignment of a robot bodyguard to look after the president. The robots have artificial intelligence and impressive specifications in terms of movement and cognitive ability. In theory, having one or more such robots would be sufficient to protect the president from a lone attacker – but we see that amendments to the constitution allow the presidents sufficient free-will to override their own safety. This loop-hole limits how much physical protection the robots can give.
There are a few characters who run through the book – the permanent staff of the White House. The main ones are Archer (the technologist) and Jim (a sort of Chief of Staff), who disagree on how to deploy the robots to prolong the life of the presidents (among other things). Once the robot program is terminated, one senses that Archer will rebel, though the reader is left in suspense about what he has in mind.
Recent events in America make this dystopian book a good read.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Disclaimer: the author works in the same department as me, but I had to buy my own copy (!) and the opinions in this review are my own.
I saw this book reviewed in the excellent Between the Covers on the BBC. The author, Richard Osman, is famous for his appearances on Pointless and other TV panel shows, so I was interested to read his new novel. This is set in a retirement village, where there are many different pursuits for the residents to enjoy – with one invite-only group dedicated to solving old murder cases. The book is partly written in the third person, with the rest narrated by Joyce, a retired nurse and recently joined member of the murder club.
The book suffers from the malaise of most modern tales of murder, which is that one is never enough. The first murder, is of Tony Curran, the main builder of the retirement village. His murder gives the club the chance to investigate a live case for once, about which they are thrilled. With no shortage of suspects, they have plenty to do – and in order to keep up to date with the case, they befriend PC De Freitas, who is working on the case. One of the suspects is Ian Ventham, the loathsome owner of the retirement village, who stands to gain significantly from the death of Curran. However, with so many enemies, it’s not long before Ventham, too, has an untimely death.
I lost count of the other deaths in the book – I believe there were at least 7 altogether. Some of these were long before the timeframe of this book, given that the main protagonists are in their seventies and eighties. In my opinion, the characters of those living in the retirement home, the police detectives and those involved in running the home were strong enough to have carried a single murder story. As it was, it felt that other characters had been introduced, along with unlikely motives and associated murders, just to complicate the book and add some padding.
I tend to read these Harry Bosch thrillers in a whatever order I come across them in charity/second-hand book shops, rather than the order in which the author wrote them. Sometimes, there are fun coincidences by doing that. This book is supposedly an anomaly in which Harry Bosch works as an investigator for his half-brother Micky Haller (he refers to this as the dark side, having recently retired from the LAPD): but in The Night Fire, the last book I read in this series, he did exactly the same thing!
The crossing referred to in the title is where the victim and the accused cross paths – and that’s the problem in this case. Despite efforts by the original investigators on the crime, no connection was made between Lexi Parks, a manager at the council, and Da’Quan Foster, a former gang member who now runs a reputable business. Whilst DNA evidence put DQ at the scene of the crime, Micky Haller is convinced that his client is innocent and enrols Bosch to take a look at the case. Bosch too is unsatisfied, especially given the frenzied nature of the attack.
In a parallel story line, Ellis and Long, two LA vice cops, are taking the law into their own hands – intimidating Micky Haller and his investigator as well as tailing Bosch. The challenge for Bosch is to find the real killer of Parks, starting by tracing her missing watch (a rare and expensive timepiece). He must also persuade the accused, DQ, to divulge his real alibi, which opens another line of enquiry into the recent murder of local prostitute James Allen.